A record-breaking number of autistic young people have internships in government departments across the UK as part of the Autism Exchange programme.

The programme, which is run by the Civil Service and Ambitious about Autism, is supporting 85 autistic young people to take part in a three-week paid internship and help them take their first steps on the career ladder. 

This year the programme which began in 2015, has expanded to offer three times as many placements, compared to any other single year. Only 21.7% of autistic adults are in paid employment and the programme aims to address these inequalities by providing autistic young people with an opportunity to develop their skills and gain practical experience in the workplace.  

Phil Wilson, Civil Service lead for autism programme:  “I am delighted with the scope of this year’s programme with applicants being matched to roles across 20 departments, including the Cabinet Office, the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care. Many of the interns will be working virtually and have been recruited from across the nations. It is very exciting to engage participants on such a large scale and provide the range of opportunities.”  

Programme enables autistic talent to shine

Ambitious about Autism, the national charity for children and young people with autism, works with autistic applicants to match them to roles across the Civil Service depending on their skills and interests. 

It also works with line managers to offer training and support to increase understanding of autism and show them how to make adjustments to working practices that will support autistic employees. 

Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, said: This is the seventh year running that Ambitious about Autism and the Civil Service have worked together to deliver meaningful work experience placements for autistic young people. Our ground-breaking partnership helps these young people prove their capabilities in high level departments across the Government.  

“Young autistic people continue to face many barriers when trying to seek employment, but we know that given the right support and often very small adjustments they thrive in the workplace and add huge value.  

“The Civil Service has always been at the forefront of the drive to increase inclusion and champion neurodiversity in the workplace, and we’re delighted to work in partnership again to enable autistic talent to shine.”